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Stalin versus Trotsky

Top row from left: Rykov, Radek, Pokrovskii, Kamenev, Bukharin, Trotsky, Lenin, Sverdlov, Lunacharskii, Zinoviev, Krylenko, Kollontai
Top row from left: Rykov, Radek, Pokrovskii, Kamenev,
Middle row from left: Bukharin, Trotsky, Lenin, Sverdlov, Lunacharskii,
Bottom row from left: Zinoviev, Krylenko, Kollontai

On 25 May 1922, Lenin suffered a major stroke, leaving his right side virtually paralysed and depriving him of speech for a while.

During that summer, as he recovered at his country house in Gorki, Lenin concerned himself with the question of his succession. He clearly favoured a collective leadership to succeed him. He was afraid of the personal rivalry that had developed in the civil war between Trotsky and Stalin.

Both men had virtues in his eyes. Trotsky was a brilliant orator and administrator: he more than anyone had won the civil war. But his pride and arrogance made him unpopular in the party. He was not a natural 'comrade'. Although a member of the Politburo, he had never held a lower party post.

Stalin, by contrast, seemed at first more suited to the needs of a collective leadership. During the civil war he had taken on himself a huge number of mundane jobs that no one else had demanded - he was the Commissar for Nationalities, the Commissar of Rabkrin (Workers' and Peasant Inspectorate), a member of the Politburo and the Orgburo (Organizational Bureau), and the Chairman of the Secretariat - with the result that he soon gained a reputation for modest and industrious mediocrity. All the party leaders made the same mistake of underestimating him. Lenin was no exception. On Stalin's urging, he made him the first General Secretary of the party in April 1922.

The key to Stalin's growing power was his control of the party apparatus in the provinces. As the Chairman of the Secretariat, and the only Politburo member in the Orgburo, he could promote his friends and dismiss opponents. In 1922 alone more than 10,000 provincial officials were appointed by the Orgburo and Secretariat. They were Stalin's main supporters during the power struggle against Trotsky in 1922-23.

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